Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon opposed adoption of a report investigating a massacre at the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps that was subsequently blamed on Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.
As defense minister, Sharon, who oversaw Israel’s 1982 operation in Lebanon to oust the PLO, was against endorsing the findings of a massacre carried out by Israel’s Lebanese allies, according to newly declassified documents.
Members of the Christian Phalangist militia entered the camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut on September 16, 1982, and slaughtered between 762 and 3,500 people. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.
“If we adopt this report, those who seek our destruction might claim that what happened at the camps was genocide,” Sharon said at a Cabinet meeting on February 10, 1983, to discuss whether or not to adopt the Kahan Commission conclusions.
After the assassination of Lebanese President Bashir Gemayal, a Maronite, Israel occupied West Beirut to prevent militia attacks against Palestinian civilians. Israel had initially hoped that Gemayal would turn Lebanon into a Christian-ruled ally, but the growing presence of the PLO prompted Israel’s intervention.
The commission of inquiry, headed by Judge Yitzhak Kahan, recommended that Sharon resign. But Sharon, who refused to do so, told the Cabinet meeting that the report’s conclusions would make Israel appear culpable.
Sharon proposed that only selected sections of the report should be adopted. “The report determines that the State of Israel, and not just the Israeli government or the IDF, are responsible. The commission determines that the chance that this massacre could happen not only existed but was known to government officials and they ignored it, meaning knowingly,” Sharon said.
“That includes all of us; that includes you, Prime Minister,” referring to then-prime minister Menachem Begin.